A Brief Walk-Through
by Elsa Garmire
Exterior of the Pavilion, showing entrance tunnel. Photo: John Pearce
The Pavilion building is dome-shaped, 120 feet in diameter, built of white poly-vinyl chloride panels placed over a steel structure. A cloud bank enshrouds the roof; an ever-changing water fog generated by an atomizer system. The cloud spills over onto the wide public plaza in front of the Pavilion through which seven white man-sized dome-shaped "Floats" move slowly, emitting sound. When touched they change their direction. Also on the plaza, the 30-foot Suntrak sculpture reflects a 10-foot diameter sunbeam to a fixed point on the dome through the fog. A moving elliptical, and a stationary triangular, mirror combine to track the sun. At night there is an intense white light frame around the Pavilion dome and cloud. This square, tilted in space, is produced by Xenon arc searchlights atop four towers at corners of the plaza.
Entrance to the interior of the Pavilion is a shiny tunnel. The visitor receives a small handset from a silver-suited hostess. This handset picks up audio signals emitted from loops embedded in the floor, and contains a small light.
Upon leaving the tunnel the visitor enters the darkness of the Clam Room, so named for its shape. The gentle obscurity of this black-walled room absorbs previous impressions in preparation for the Dome Room above. As the visitor sinks gently into the soft surface at the entrance he hears, through the first set of loops, information regarding the many possible experiences to be explored in the Pavilion. In the center of the ceiling, shadows and moving lights flicker across the glass window. In the ceiling at the end of the room an inverted plastic dome glows red, yellow, green, and blue with a display of krypton laser light. This display has its source in audio signals which drive fast-moving galvanometer mirrors, deflecting the colored light beams in two-dimensional figures. The translucent dome showers the visitors with scintillating flashes of laser light as they walk beneath it.
A stairway leads up into the interior of the Dome Room, containing a large hemispherical mirror dome, 90 feet in diameter. Inside the space, upside down above people's heads, will be their real images suspended in space. Illusion merges with reality as the visitor walks entirely around the hanging images, noting their full three-dimensional presence. Climbing an elevated platform allows the visitor to merge with the images, isolating himself from the rest of the real and image worlds. Looking out through the spherical mirror the visitor sees enlarged right-side-up images of people and objects standing in the outer regions of the floor. These images are not "real" in that they appear on the other side of the mirror.
A versatile and sophisticated lighting system, consisting primarily of spotlights in the top of the dome, makes use of the reflective properties of the mirror and causes a variety of experiences. For example, the entire spherical mirror can be illuminated, creating blossoms of pure light. Rapid sequencing of spots can cause the dome to appear to spin. Two ultra-collimated beams bounce many times off the mirror creating spatial light structures. The position, color, size, and intensity of the lights can be controlled manually or programmed with paper punch tapes.
The acoustics of the dome are as phenomenal as its optics. Echoes and reverberations create lively sound images and envelopes. A versatile speaker system and switching network makes full use of the acoustical properties of the sphere. Sounds may be switched along latitudes and longitudes at speeds varying from very slow to a velocity fast enough to lose the sense of motion. The whole space can be divided into areas of maximal and minimal sounds in a standing wave pattern. Point, line, and immersion sound phenomena are all easily achievable.
In contrast to the sound and light image world is the real physical presence of the floor. The floor slopes gently up toward the clear glass floor, which presents visual contact with the Clam Room. There are a number of different floor sections, each creating a different physical impression. The sound loops beneath each section emit distinctive sounds coordinated to the floor material. Thus, above the grassy segment the visitor hears lawn mowers, birds, etc.; above the asphalt floor are city sounds. Other sections are bouncy rubber, wood, lead, stone.
Changing teams of four people, composed of artists, scientists, and people from other professions, program the light and sound activities. These performances are experimental in nature and take full advantage of the unique technical equipment and other properties of the dome.